Wednesday, May 28, 2008

13 Inspiring Women Writers/ Heroes

This week we’re talking about heroes at the Diner. To me a hero is someone who inspires. I started thinking about who inspires me. I got the idea to highlight women writers from my Aunt Barbara. For Christmas she gave me a book, “Women Writers,” by Rebecca Hazell, which turned out to be a fascinating read.

“All of these women were and are vital, sensitive people whose lives and words have ranged from the spiritual to the rebellious, from the sad to the joyous,” Rebecca says. “All of them put their life experiences, understanding, imaginations—and their hearts—into their stories and poems. In doing so, they have shown us not only what it has meant to be a woman in other times, but also what it means, at all times, to be human.”

What inspired me most was that all of these women wrote through their life struggles. They followed their hearts, and wrote with passion. Many faced difficulties because they pursued their dream to write and most had trouble getting published. But the ultimate success and recognition they attained made them legendary.

So here they are:

Thirteen Inspiring Women Writers/Heroes

1.) Jane Austen. (1775-1817) The English author, daughter of a wealthy clergyman, is famous now, considered to be the first great woman novelist. Her novels are must-reads in high school language arts classes and they’ve been made into TV dramas and situation comedies, as well as several movies. Did you know, though, that during Jane’s life, she hid the fact that she wrote because women of her social class didn’t work for a living.

2, 3 and 4.) Anne Bronte (1820-1849), Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) and Emily Bronte (1818-1848). The sisters first published their volumes of poetry at their own expense, but they didn’t sell. It took them a long time to find publishers for their books, including “Agnes Grey,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Wuthering Heights”. The sisters were plagued with health problems and died before they could enjoy the remarkable success of their novels.

5.) Mary Higgins Clark (1927- ), the “Queen of Suspense,” began her career as a novelist as a widow with four children. Her first published book was the love story of George and Martha Washington. She has gone on to write almost 30 other books, mostly suspense novels and most of which I’ve read.

6.) Anita Desai (1937- ). This novelist, short-story writer and children’s author grew up in Old Delhi, India, and I suspect she felt like an outsider. She was a Hindu while many of her friends were Muslim. Because her mother was German, Anita spoke German at home, Hindu with neighbors, and English in the school she attended. Her sensitivity to differences in others is one of the qualities praised in her stories and novels. I’m also impressed that she wrote her first story in English when she was 7 and had her first story published when she was only 9.

7.) Isak Dinesen (1885-1962). Pen name for Baroness Karen von Blixen-Fineck. She was a Danish author who wrote primarily in English. She was immortalized in the film, “Out of Africa,” which I believe was based on her book by the same name. What I like most about her is her openness to adventure, whether that adventure turns out to be a happy or unhappy experience. That openness comes through in her prose.

8.) Enhedyanna (2300 B.C.).She’s one of the earliest known writers in history and I wouldn’t know about her if she hadn’t been featured in Rebecca Hazell’s book. She was a Sumerian priestess who lived in Mesopotamia (part of today’s Iraq) long before the era of Jesus Christ. One of the most important writers of prehistory, she produced her poems on cuneiform tablets that only recently have been unearthed.

9.) Helen Keller (1880-1968). She was blind and deaf, yet she studied, wrote and spoke professionally and led an amazing life. Her books have been translated into 50 languages, one of which was “Out of the Dark” (1913). The play and motion picture, “The Miracle Worker,” is perhaps best known.

10.) Beryl Markham 1902-1986). A British-born Kenyan, she became a bush pilot and a horse breeder when women weren’t supposed to do that kind of thing. She took chances. Example: She was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west (1936). And she was as adventurous in prose as she was in life. I love her descriptions in “West With the Night” (1942).

11.) Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943), an English writer and illustrator of children’s books featuring charming animals such as Peter Rabbit and the Flopsy Bunnies. I just saw the movie, “Mrs. Potter,” which helped me see Beatrix as a real person so I was excited to find her in Rebecca Hazell’s book. It seems Beatrix’s well-to-do parents didn’t want her to write or marry anyone not in their class. She had to fight to do both and then her fiancé died. Years later, after she was a published author, she fell in love again, also with a man in whom her parents didn’t approve. She married him anyway. In all, she wrote and illustrated 25 books.

12.) Lady Murasaki Shikibu (973 to 1014 or 1025 or 1031?) Although she lived as a noble woman in feudal Japan, she had as much impact on Japanese literature with “Tales of Genji ” as William Shakesphere had on British writing with his plays. Her “Tales” is considered by many to be the world’s first novel. I haven’t read Lady Murasaki’s story, but I found the thumbnail sketch in “Women Writers”extremely interesting.

13.) Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). The Wisconsin-born Wilder was 60 something when she started writing remembrances of her pioneer family’s life. Much of her childhood was spent traveling west by covered wagon, to grasshopper country in Minnesota, to the Dakota territory and to Indian territory in Kansas. Her daughter grew up listening to her mother’s stories of those frontier days and urged her to write them so that other children could enjoy them. Finally, Mother agreed and the “Little House” series was born. Because her books are autobiographical, it’s clear her life, although happy, was difficult.

Did I suggest you read Rebecca Hazell’s book yet? Your time will be well spent. You’ll find details of many of these 13 inspiring authors there.

Who inspires you? Tell me about your favorite women writers.

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  1. I'd have to say Katherine Hepburn is one, Ruth Gordon another, both actresses, yes, but their bios were amazing. I also love Nevada Barr, Sujata Massey, Sue Grafton, Julia Child, etc., etc. :-) Great post!

  2. You know, I grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder and it wasn't until recently that I realized just how difficult her life was. As a kid, I don't think we pick up on those things and we concentrate only on the magic.

  3. The Lindbergh women inspire me--Anne Morrow and Reeve. Great post!

  4. Gosh, What a great list. I've been meaning to read some of Jane Austins book's. I've only seen the movies based on her novel, but that's not the same. LOL!!! Happy TT and thanks for visiting.

  5. Great list! It reminds me that I have a lot of reading to do.

    Since my little one came along my reading has taken a big hit.

  6. wow, you covered many here, I would add Jan Karon, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Anne Rice myself as they are insprational to me. Thanks for visiting The Cafe at the end of the Universe. You might be interested in my other blog: Mama Bear Reads.

  7. I agree with you on all of them. Wonderful list!
    Thanks for visiting my deity TT.

  8. Those are some inspiring women!

  9. What a wonderful gift! I can't believe there were women writing in Sumeria! Wow.

  10. If you're talking about women writers you should add Aphra Behn, one of the first (some say the first) woman to earn a living by her writing. I would also add Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelu. :)

  11. A very inspiring list.

    I was thinking the same thing as Susan. I too grew up loving the Little House books, but as a child the magic came through much stronger than the hardship.

  12. Wonderful list of inspiring female writers, Brenda.

    I've always been inspired by Julia Child. While not a fiction author, she was, indeed, an admirable woman. The warm, beautiful story-telling narrative in her cookbooks captivated me with her genuine passion for cooking as well as for life.

    Thanks for stopping by my TT! :-)

  13. i've never heard of #6, 7, 8, 10 , nor 12 but will have to look into their works. thanks for sharing these!

  14. I love Jane Austin... I also love Harper Lee.. she wrote my all time favorite book To Kill A Mockingbird

  15. Hey Kid! Did you sneak a peek at my book shelf while you were upstairs? You did go up to mail my rent check while I was gone, right?
    Aunt Barbara is one cool lady! If she was born 100 years ago, she'd have found herself riding doubles in the cool evening air of the Sahara.
    I have another title to add to that long list of descriptives you listed...Pioneer. These women single-handedly changed how women are percieved by society. Many of them did not see what barriers they were scaling, nor how their courage to do what lie outside the boundries of their place in society, would change the future for us to follow in the shadows of their boots.